Vancouver, B.C.-based portrait artist Adam Hoens is known for incredible portraits of hip hop artists. We asked him about his approach to his art, what led him to focus on hip hop artists, and creating an art show in his hometown.
Tell us about your #CopicColors piece for April.
I chose to do a portrait of Kanye West. He is one of my favorite Artists and a major influence in my work. His work ethic and persistence is what I try to emulate in pursuing my art career.
Your portraiture is incredible. Are you professionally trained? What led you to art?
I'm a self taught portrait artist from North Delta, B.C., Canada. One of the most common questions I'm asked is "Did you go to Art School?". The answer is, “No, I didn’t.” For as long as I can remember, I've been drawing and creating some type of art. When I was little, my mom would always do arts and crafts with me. Eventually, I began to draw on my own and was exposed to comic books. I grew to appreciate the art aspect of comics more than actually reading them. I would draw my favorite superheroes and try to emulate my favorite comic book artists. Drawing comics is where I my developed my passion for portraits.
What ultimately led you to focusing on hip hop portraiture for your work?
I stopped doing art for a while in my early teens and was super focused on skateboarding. Skateboarding is highly influenced by the hip-hop culture, through the fashion, as well as, the music itself. I always enjoyed the variety of art that was on skateboard decks, especially ones with portraits. When I started getting back into drawing, I went back to what I knew best, which was portraits. Since music was, and is, such a big influence on me, I just put the two together and thought, "Why not draw my favorite artists?" Hip-hop is my favorite music and I didn't see a lot of art based on my favorite rappers, especially some of the more obscure ones. I am passionate about this genre so it naturally became my primary focus. This is what I have become known for.
What's your process like for each piece you create?
I'm actually a fan of all of the artists I do pieces of. I choose to paint or draw them because I love their music. Some artists I see do art of certain people just to get it shared or if it's of someone/something that is trending to get the "likes". I'm focused on the art. When I have the reference photo picked, I research that artist by watching lots of interviews, reading up on their backstory and I only listen to that artist while I work on that piece. No matter how long it takes, whether that’s 10 hours or 80 hours. I feel that it helps me depict the artist better in the portrait.
You work with many different mediums. Why switch between so many mediums and what do you find most challenging and rewarding about each one?
I work with so many mediums simply because some work better than others to recreate a picture with. Once I've decided on a picture, I then choose which medium will work best. I prefer really hi-res ones that aren't typical. It could be an interesting angle, lighting, outfit, tone or backdrop etc. I'm very particular with pictures I choose. I have a long list of people I haven't drawn solely because I haven't found "the perfect picture" to use for reference.
It's challenging at first, trying different mediums. The work doesn't always come together and turn out how I imagined. I've had lots of practice with the few mediums that I currently juggle, so I'm now very comfortable with them. That being said, I've definitely thrown out and ripped up pieces in the past. Haha.
The common challenge with all the mediums I use is blending. The smoother the blending and transition of colors and shadows, the more realistic it will look, which is my goal of each piece. Some mediums are harder to blend with than others. I have the most fun blending with Copic markers. Having the ability to build up tones with Copics, means can really get those realistic blends that are found in all skin shades. I then add even more depth on my Copic portraits with colored pencils.
You're a curator of MADE Art Shows. What’s this event all about?
Together with my friend Albert, a DJ, we founded MADE Art Shows five years ago. "MADE" started as an event to bridge the gap between music and visual art. In our minds, they went hand and hand. Our goal was, and still is, to create an event which we would want to attend. That means using a unique space, DJ's and artists together to provide memorable experiences of great music and art exhibits.
Tell us more about next month’s edition of MADE.
Currently, I’m working on a large Beyoncé charcoal piece for our next "MADE" event on May 24th in Vancouver. We usually have a theme for these events. Next month’s theme is " Queens of the Culture”. It's celebrating female hip hop artists and their influences on music and art culture.
What's the best place for people to follow your work?
Photos by Shahanah Zaynah